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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : Celtic

Undergraduate Course: Songs, Swords, Rebels and Revivals: Modern Celtic Literature in Translation (CELT08023)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course provides an introduction to selected genres of Celtic literature from the early modern and modern periods, and an understanding of the social and historical background that gave rise to the texts studied. Two strands make up the course, one dealing with the Scottish Gaelic tradition and the other looking at Early Modern and Modern Irish literature. English translations are used throughout the course, and no knowledge of the original Celtic languages is required. The course is aimed at students who have successfully completed Celtic Civilisation 1A and 1B, as well as Heroes, Wonders, Saints and Sagas: Medieval Celtic Literature in Translation, but it is also open to anyone who has taken a course in a literary or historical or similar subject at University level and wishes to explore the Celtic tradition. The course does not aim to provide a comprehensive survey of the two literatures studied, but rather to examine in greater depth certain periods or themes or genres which are characteristic of the tradition, which offer cross-cultural comparisons within the Celtic world, and which are amenable to study through translation. For history students, the course offers insight into the nature and working of the two literary traditions; for literature students, enhanced understanding of the social and political background to the selected parts of Scottish Gaelic and Early Modern and Modern Irish literature; for students of Celtic Studies, the opportunity to range widely in the early modern and modern fields in advance of Honours course choices and the more intensive but narrower language-based study of the Honours classes. Each thematic component consists of an equal number of lecture-based and discussion-based classes. Combined with Celtic Literature 2A, the course offers the opportunity to progress to the Honours programme of Medieval Celtic Studies.
Course description The course introduces students to selections of poetry and prose from Scottish Gaelic and Irish literature in translation. One strand examines some major features and themes of Scottish Gaelic literature (mainly poetry) dating from between the sixteenth and the twentieth century. We begin with the inherited Gaelic tradition up to the seventeenth century, before the decline in chiefly patronage of professional literati, with a selection of texts that represent both formal genres of praise and lighter material produced by amateur composers. Our discussion of representative voices from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century 'Golden Age' of vernacular Gaelic poetry introduces important practitioners of poetry such as Iain Lom, Sìleas na Ceapaich, Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, and Donnchadh Bàn Macintyre; their work reflects the poet's intellectual, emotional, and - sometimes - propagandistic response to the political and social upheavals of the time, notably the Jacobite Risings. We then proceed to the poets' view of the crumbling of traditional Gaelic society in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, in the age of Clearance and emigration, religious awakening and political revival. Finally, we look at the emergence of modern poetry in the twentieth century and how it negotiates the space between the older tradition and the place of Gaelic literature in a predominantly English-speaking world. The other strand introduces some of the main themes, genres and developments in Irish literature (mainly poetry) from the late sixteenth century to the present. Again, we begin with the work of the professional poets and their reaction to the loss of aristocratic patronage in the seventeenth century as a result of political upheavals in Ireland. We then consider the practitioners of vernacular Irish verse and the new themes, forms, and genres that come to the fore following the demise of the professional poets, notably Dáibhí Ó Bruadair and Aogán Ó Rathaille. Material composed in the eighteenth century then offers us insights into the poets' reflections of Jacobite history and ideology as well as a glimpse of a rich tradition of folksong composed by both men and women; Brian Merriman's 'Midnight Court' encapsulates criticism of oppressive morality and power structures in society and 'The Keen for Art O'Leary' serves as an example of female reaction to loss and grief. Nineteenth-century material includes the important genre of autobiography detailing life in remote Irish-speaking communities. Twentieth-century and contemporary material addresses questions of modernity, tradition, and intellectual life in a minority culture and language. In both strands, the texts studied reflect in various ways the socio-economic and, more importantly, the political milieu of their times, and students may expect to acquire a good understanding of the function of such texts and the historical background to their composition.

The course consists of lectures introducing the poets, their work, and the historical and socio-cultural background of the time and of seminars where we engage in discussion of individual works. The written assignments are designed to give the students the opportunity to explore more texts in the light of what they have learned in the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Students may wish to print out course materials.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  32
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Critical review (1000 words) 20%
Essay (2000 words) 45%
7 day assessment via Turnitin (3 x500 words) 35%
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on written work and are encouraged to contact staff for informal feedback.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a sound knowledge of the characteristics of a selection of key genres of Scottish Gaelic and Early Modern and Modern Irish literature in translation
  2. evaluate the value of the material as literature, drawing on scholarly evaluation as well as detailed study of the primary texts
  3. assess the significance of the texts in the historical and social context of the time of their origin
  4. demonstrate an understanding of the role of the purveyors of literature in the context of both society and historical environment
  5. demonstrate competence in transferable skills, e.g. close engagement with texts, critical evaluation of source material, independent reading, coherent and clearly structured writing, oral presentation, group discussion, time management
Reading List
Essential reading:
Black, Ronald I. (ed. & tr.), An Tuil: Anthology of 20th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Edinburgh 1999).
Black, Ronald I. (ed.), An Lasair - An Anthology of 18th Century Scottish Gaelic Verse (Edinburgh 2001).
Deane, Séamas et al., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 5 vols (Cork/Derry 1991-2002).
Devine, Thomas M., Clanship to Crofters' War (Manchester 1994).
Kiberd, Declan and G. Fitzmaurice (eds.), An Crann Faoi Bhláth: The Flowering Tree (Dublin 1991).
MacInnes, John, 'The Panegyric Code in Gaelic Poetry and Its Historical Background', Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness vol. 50 (1976-1978), 435-498.
MacLean, Sorley, Ris a' Bhruthaich: Criticism and Prose writings of Sorley MacLean, ed. by William Gillies (Stornoway 1985).
MacLeod, Wilson & Meg Bateman (ed.& tr.), Duanaire na Sracaire: Songbook of the Pillagers. Anthology of Scotland's Gaelic Verse to 1600 (Edinburgh 2007).
Meek, Donald E. (ed. & tr.), Tuath is Tighearna - Tenants and Landlords (Edinburgh 1995).
Meek, Donald E. (ed. & tr.), Caran an t-Saoghail - The Wiles of the World (Edinburgh 2003).
Ó Tuama, Seán, and Thomas Kinsella, An Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (Portlaoise 1994 [1981]).

Recommended Reading:
Bergin, Osborn, Irish Bardic Poetry (Dublin, 1970).
Campbell, John Lorne, (ed.), Highland Songs of the Forty-five (2nd edn, Edinburgh, 1984).
Carson, Ciarán, The Midnight Court: A New Translation (Oldcastle 2005).
Dinneen, Patrick. S. and Tadhg O'Donoghue (eds), Dánta Aodhagáin Uí Rathaille / The Poems of Egan O'Rahilly (London 1984 [1911]).
Fitzmaurice, Gabriel, Poems from the Irish (Cork 2004).
Hunter, James, The Making of the Crofting Community (Edinburgh 1976).
Kiberd, Declan, Irish Classics (Cambridge, MA 2000).
Kinsella, Thomas, The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (Oxford 1989 [1986]).
MacDonald, John, Òrain Iain Luim / The songs of John MacDonald, Bard of Keppoch, ed. by Annie M. Mackenzie (Edinburgh, 1964).
MacDonald, Sìleas, Bàrdachd Shìlis na Ceapaich c. 1660 - c. 1729 / Poems and Songs by Sileas MacDonald c. 1660 - c. 1729, ed. by Colm Ó Baoill (Edinburgh 1972).
MacDonell, Margaret (ed. & tr.), The Emigrant Experience: Songs of Highland Emigrants in North America (Toronto, c.1982).
MacErlean, John C. (ed. & tr.), Duanaire Dháibhidh Uí Bhruadair. Irish Texts Society (London), vols. 11 (1910), 13 (1913) and 18 (1917).
Macintyre, Duncan Bàn, Òrain Dhonnchaidh Bhàin / The Songs of Duncan Bàn Macintyre, ed. by Angus MacLeod (Edinburgh, 1952).
MacLean, Calum I., The Highlands (Edinburgh 1990 and earlier editions).
Mhac an tSaoi, Máire, Trasladáil (Belfast 1997).
Ó Direáin, Máirtín, Selected Poems / Tacar Dánta. Selected and translated by Tomás Mac Síomóin and Douglas Sealy (Newbridge, Co. Kildare, 1984).
Ó Riordáin, Seán, Selected Poems /Rogha Dánta, ed. Frank Sewell (New Haven, CT and Indreabhán, 2014).
Ó Searcaigh, Cathal, Homecoming / An Bealach 'na Bhaile: Selected Poems / Rogha Dánta, ed. Gabriel Fitzmaurice (Indreabhán 1993).
Ó Tuama, Seán, Repossessions: Selected Essays on the Irish Literary Heritage (Cork 1990).
Sewell, Frank, Modern Irish Poetry: A New Alhambra (Oxford 2000).
Thomson, Derick S., An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry (Edinburgh 1990).

Further Reading:
Kelleher, Margaret and Patrick O'Leary (eds), The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, 2 vols (Cambridge 2008).
Mac Conghail, Muiris, The Blaskets: People and Literature (Dublin 1987).
Mac Réamoinn, Seán (ed.), The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry (London 1982).
Moody, T. W., and F. X. Martin (eds), The Course of Irish History (Cork 1984).
Ó Ciardha, Eamonn, Ireland and the Jacobite Cause: A Fatal Attachment (Dublin 2002).
Ó Madagáin, Breandán, Caointe agus Seancheolta Eile/Keening and other Old Irish Musics (Indreabhán 2005).
Richards, Eric, A History of the Highland Clearances: Agrarian Transformation and the Evictions 1746-1886, 2 vols (London 1982-1985).
Riggs, Pádraigín (ed.), Dáibhí Ó Bruadair: His Historical and Literary Context (London 2001)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills As an outcome of having studied this course, students will benefit from having developed a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 8 characteristics:

Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of a range of Gaelic and Irish literary genres and the place of such literary material in relation to their historical and social environment;

Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practise their skills in analysis and discussion of the course material;

Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practised identifying, defining, conceptualising and analysing facts and issues relating to the course material;

Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to their peers and subject specialists;

Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously on designated tasks, to develop new thinking, and to work to deadlines.
KeywordsScottish Gaelic literature,Irish literature,social change,poetry,translated material,orality,history
Course organiserDr Anja Gunderloch
Tel: (0131 6)51 1374
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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